Article by: Keith Doherty
Like most Americans this year, Tom Nelson was paying attention to the news surrounding Covid-19 during the second week of March. The growing concerns had been there for a while, but the seriousness of the situation really began to rapidly shift when the NBA cancelled their games. The domino effect ensued across the country. March Madness was cancelled. College students were sent home. Governors began to close schools. Statewide safety precautions began to hatch, and Americans quickly braced for the New Normal.
The CEO of Zero Haliburton and a native son of West Virginia quickly realized that he and his wife were living in the epicenter of a global pandemic.
Nelson recalled, “We found ourselves right in the center of the storm. We felt at first that we would try to stick it out in our apartment there – and indeed we have several friends in NYC who have done that – but the city was rapidly becoming unrecognizable with streets empty of cars and people and businesses shut down everywhere. It was becoming oppressive, so we began looking at options.”
Nelson grew up in Charleston, WV and graduated from George Washington High School. His grandfather first came to WV in 1930.
“I left the state after high school and have since lived in many places around the world, including St. Louis, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and New York. I have incredibly fond memories of living in WV and wouldn’t have traded the experience of growing up here with anyone growing up anywhere else. My childhood memories are rich with all of the fun and discovery that comes with being young, but especially enhanced by the treasures that were offered by this state.”
As he faced the decision on where to stay as the crisis grew, the Mountain State became the obvious choice for he and his wife.
“West Virginia stood out to us for many reasons: my mother lives here, and we thought she might need some family nearby for help. The state is within a day’s driving distance of New York. It’s roughly halfway between where each of our daughters live, the population density is low – and I’m from here originally and know the state!”
They moved quickly and just in time.
“The day we arrived at Wild Rock, after a non-stop eight-hour drive from NYC, was the day New York state announced its lockdown.”
More restrictions from the state of West Virginia soon followed. And what could have been a personal hardship shifted to the sanctity of a haven.
“It was a perfect place to be. So much so that we extended our stay well beyond the original period of time we thought we’d be here. Some of that was due to the extensions of the lockdown in New York and elsewhere, but much of it was because we so loved sheltering in such a beautiful community as Wild Rock and the wider Fayetteville area.”
Springtime in West Virginia can be quite the phenomenon. The weather is completely unpredictable, but you can watch the New River Gorge come alive on a daily basis, especially, when you are literally living on the edge of it. The leaves pop and the flowers bloom along various elevation points. And the birds are active along the cliffline.
“The highlight of our time in quarantine here was most definitely the stunning beauty of this area. It was an unforgettable exercise in nature-watching to be here during the transition from late winter to spring. The weather remained unusually cool until early May, which we both enjoyed, and seeing the forest progress into green each day was remarkable. We also did a ton of hiking in the Wild Rock development (we wanted to avoid public trails) which was physically and mentally enriching.”
The Wild Rock property is a gated-community and naturally isolated from any traffic. Each lot is a minimum of two acres with miles of wooded trails and several scenic overlooks. The social distancing guidelines recommended by the state were essentially embedded into the community already. In fact, the only change Wild Rock had to make to their existing policies was to implement a four-day separation between guests to allow for extra cleaning time.
“We were very mindful of the protocols and paid full attention to them. Just about the time we arrived in WV, it was becoming increasingly clear that New York was the epicenter of the coronavirus in the US. From news reports and in conversations with friends from New York who had left the city, we were aware there was a great deal of sensitivity about people leaving their home bases to shelter in other locations. We completely understood that thinking, which is one of the reasons why we chose such a secluded spot to settle into.”
And if you have to be stuck in quarantine, what a setting the 3200-square foot Cliff House provides with its floor-to-ceiling windows and a 900-foot view of the gorge below.
“Cliff House and Wild Rock have been spectacular. We have an affinity for mid-century modern design style in homes, so Cliff House caught our eye immediately. It’s a gorgeous home with great style and high-end finishes. And the views through its many windows are incomparable.”
Settled into a new home office and a very comfortable living arrangement, the Nelson’s went on with life as best they could. But that didn’t mean things were exactly normal.
“Easily the biggest challenge, which everyone has felt universally, is not being able to socialize in person. We met a few other Wild Rock visitors and homeowners – from a safe distance – while outside and would have really enjoyed getting together with them more and getting to know them, but we felt we had to be hermit-like. Work and Zoom helped us get through, but we sure miss hanging with people!”
Some of those people that the Nelsons wished to socialize with was their family.
“My siblings, who grew up with me in Charleston, are no doubt wishing they could have been here too. My brother lives in Atlanta and my sister in Utah, which are both nice places, but when I sent them photos of the New River Gorge Bridge and other local scenery, I’m sure I made them very homesick for WV. Our daughters and son-in-law said many times how they wished they could visit us and enjoy the WV countryside.
“We will very much miss the house, Wild Rock, and this supremely charming section of WV…it has been an amazingly restorative refuge.”
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